Wasted Personalization

Chatting with a friend about this article, he suggested I write about the most memorable email I’ve received. And while that would be interesting, I know I find emails memorable for reasons you might not. I’m most enthralled by the development, design or concept, whereas you might be most taken by the message 

Chatting with a friend about this article, he suggested I write about the most memorable email I’ve received. And while that would be interesting, I know I find emails memorable for reasons you might not. I’m most enthralled by the development, design or concept, whereas you might be most taken by the message.

As my friend described the most memorable email he had received, I thought about why that same email would have been memorable to me. That led me down the path I started in my last article—applying direct-mail lessons to today’s email campaigns.

In 1995, I founded The World-Wide Power Company, the world’s first international distributor of all (graphics) extension-based technology. As the only distributor of all things plug-in, we had extensive records about who owned what, their core applications, versions, numbers of copies and so much more. Back then, this data lived in our invoicing system, which suited us perfectly as we had customized FileMaker Pro for inventory, invoicing, reporting, vendor tracking, managing the product matrix, and other day-to-day business activities. This meant our customer and purchase data were clicks away any time we built a direct-mail campaign.

Our most-successful campaigns were our weekly direct-mail postcards and letters, nicknamed PUN (product-upgrade notice) and CUN (competitive-upgrade notice). These events were mailed each week to everyone in our quarter-million name database who owned a product undergoing an upgrade during the week or for which a competitive product had been announced. The messaging on the cards went something like this (I’ve represented some of the messaging with the field names from our database, shown in all caps, to save space and to illustrate connections to fields):

CUSTOMER NUMBER: [001097]

[LESLIE STRONGMAN], [XYZ PRINTING]
OR THE CURRENT IS/IT DIRECTOR OR GRAPHICS MANAGER

[ 1/22/1997 216350 1 Imposer XTension]
[ 4/4/1997 221450 5 Imposer XTension]
[ 4/7/1997 221527 2 Imposer XTension/MarkIt Bundle]

Dear [Leslie],

On behalf of [XYZ Printing], you purchased [Imposer] from The World-Wide Power Company. Your purchase information, including invoice date, invoice number, and quantity, is listed above. According to our records, you currently own [8 copies] of QuarkXPress [4]. In order to upgrade your [QuarkXPress] to version [5] and maintain the ability to [SHORT DESCRIPTION], you must also upgrade your [XTENSIONS] purchases listed above.

[Imposer 2.0] has been upgraded to provide
[1-LINE BENEFIT] and to support [QuarkXPress 5].

[LIST BENEFITS]

[LIST FEATURES]

[Imposer Pro] retails for [$399]. For a limited time, upgrade each of your copies of [Imposer 1.X] or [2.X] to [Imposer Pro] for [$199].

Call ThePowerXChange to upgrade and take advantage of this special pricing before [31 March 2003]. Prices do not include taxes, where applicable, or shipping. Delivery options are as follows: [electronic delivery is free] or [CD-ROM sent via Airborne overnight for $12].

The response rates from these postcards averaged more than 50 percent, but our best result was more than 80 percent! This is a number to make any marketer salivate.

Having set the stage, the reason I bring this up is to discuss the opportunities lost by today’s marketer—even me, and I most certainly know better.

Today, personalization is demonstrated in our emails often by including the recipient’s first name in the greeting or subject line, but rarely, very rarely, do we see the level of personalization I’ve shown above—except perhaps in the case of our shopping cart abandonment messages … but that’s actually my point.

We know abandonment messages enjoy high open and click rates and yet we don’t apply the trigger of those messages to our everyday marketing messages. Why not? Difficult? Lack of technical know how? Lack of resources? All of the above? Probably.

Step back and ascertain a complete view of the data you have within your organization—and I’m not talking about big data here. Look to your accounting system and ferret out nuggets like those in my example. Look to your marketing database and find unusual bits to help you connect with the recipient. See if your badge scans can disclose something new, or if your sales team can add color.

What my friend told me about his most memorable email (from Hyatt) was the message thanked him for having stayed at a Hyatt property 75 times and provided the name and location of his first Hyatt stay. He enjoyed the trip down memory lane, and while he admits most of the information was wrong, he still felt a strong connection and fondness for Hyatt because they remembered him.

As with all things marketing, this could turn out poorly for the marketer if recipient’s recollections bring back unpleasant memories, but that’s simply a marketing risk we take every day.

The next time you send out a marketing message, consider if you’re wasting personalization on a simple greeting and see if it’s possible to take it to the next level by including something memorable, important, funny, or, well, personal, that can actually connect with your audience.

Abandonment Issues

Throughout my 10-plus years covering online marketing and commerce, one nagging issue that’s remained top-of-mind for all in the space has been shopping cart abandonment and how to stop it from happening.

In fact, a survey released by PayPal on June 23 showed that 45 percent of online shoppers abandoned their carts multiple times in the three weeks prior to the survey, which was conducted May 12 to May 15 by comScore. It polled 553 active shoppers who recently had abandoned shopping carts.

Throughout my 10-plus years covering online marketing and commerce, one nagging issue that’s remained top-of-mind for all in the space has been shopping cart abandonment and how to stop it from happening.

In fact, a survey released by PayPal on June 23 showed that 45 percent of online shoppers abandoned their carts multiple times in the three weeks prior to the survey, which was conducted May 12 to May 15 by comScore. It polled 553 active shoppers who recently had abandoned shopping carts.

Another finding: The average value of goods in abandoned shopping carts in the U.S. is $109.

High shipping costs, security concerns and lack of convenience were cited as the main reasons survey respondents abandoned their carts.

Although high shipping costs was cited as the No. 1 reason for cart abandonment, 40 percent of respondents said if they’d known shipping costs up front they might have completed their purchases.

Thirty-seven percent of survey respondents abandoned their carts because they wanted to comparison shop. Another 36 percent didn’t have enough money after shipping and handling charges were added to totals. Twenty-seven percent of respondents who abandoned their carts did so to search for coupons, although a third of those shoppers later returned to the same site to buy. An additional 20 percent purchased the items at brick-and-mortar stores or competitors’ Web sites.

Other reasons shoppers abandon their carts include the following:

  • 26 percent wanted to shop offline;
  • 24 percent couldn’t find preferred pay options;
  • 23 percent said the item was unavailable at checkout;
  • 22 percent couldn’t find customer support; and
  • 21 percent were concerned about the security of credit card data.

While this information may not solve your abandoned shopping cart problems, maybe it will give you some ideas as to how to improve them. If you make customer service easy to find on your site, for example, your abandonment rates may go down.

This is an excellent topic for an open dialogue. Have any of you seen improved shopping cart abandonment rates based on a strategy or technique you’ve implemented? If so, let us know by leaving a comment here. We’d love to hear from you!